Food is the most expensive cost for Rasim’s family. Weekly, they spend around 150 BAM ($81) to buy milk, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, bread, cookies, vegetables and fruit. Since a kilogramme of bananas reached almost 4 BAM ($2.15) they have stopped buying them.
“The price of dairy products has gone up the most. In 2021, one litre of milk cost around 60 cents, now it is $1,35, more than double. Also, 10 eggs now cost $2, double the price before inflation,” says Emina.
Rasim says meat is now a luxury for them. Earlier, the family would eat meat twice a week, and on Saturdays they would go barbecuing with friends. Now, they only buy meat once or twice a month.
Monthly they also buy some rice, pasta, coffee, oil, flour, sugar, salt and some spices. Emina adds that occasionally they get some healthy food, like almonds and raisins, for their son Hamza.
They both agree that, before, they didn’t pay much attention to how much food they bought and how much it cost. “Before, when we went to buy groceries, if I buy one bottle of oil, Rasim would put two more, to stock up just in case. Now he takes things out from the basket.”
For the same amount they spend on groceries weekly, they used to be able to buy several bags to last them two or three weeks, they say.
Now, they have to use the 400 BAM ($216) amount Rasim gets for medical care – intended for hiring a professional to help him with his daily life – in order to pay for part of their food bill. Rasim does not need any special medications since his wounds from the amputation are now healed, and he doesn’t have any other medical conditions, so the family feels using the money for food is more essential. To save on the cost of a hired professional, Rasim’s family assists him with dressing, bathing and eating.
December 2021: 400 BAM ($216)*
February 2023: 650 BAM ($350)
Hygiene and cleaning products
Rasim’s family spends about 250 BAM ($135) monthly for regular household cleaning and personal hygiene products. Official data from the national statistics agency shows that these products are 12.2 percent more expensive now than in 2021.
“It is not luxury, we have to buy shampoos, soap, shower gel, shaving cream, razor blades, creams, detergent and products to clean the house. This is something that every family needs,” says Emina.
Rasim now also needs more cream products to rub gently on his arm skin that was transplanted from his leg. He explains that it is a very thin layer of skin that needs constant care. For cream he usually pays 10 BAM ($5.40).
Rasim has also stopped going to barber salons. Instead, the family made an investment and bought an electric hair clipper, so Emina can now shave his head and beard. They say this helps them save about 30 BAM ($16) a month.
December 2021: 200 BAM ($108)*
February 2023: 250 BAM ($135)
Before rising inflation, Rasim would use the money he earned working as an electrician to buy fuel. He says he would fill up a tank for 50 BAM ($27) and drive for a long time. Now, for the same amount of money, he gets only a quarter tank.
Because of the extra expense, he now limits trips back to Šerići, the village where he was born and where his parents live, 30km (18 miles) away from Zenica. Rasim explains that before he would need about 15 BAM ($8) for one trip there and back. Now, it costs 20 BAM ($11). To save on fuel, the family also doesn’t go on day trips to the capital every weekend any more.
Rasim also has to travel to service his prosthetic arm. Since it was not possible to do this in Sarajevo, recently they had to travel twice to Croatia, 330km (205 miles) away – first to leave the prosthetic at the authorised service provider and get the replacement arm, and a second time to collect his prosthetic.
For Rasim, driving a car is very important and he does not want to give that up. During his recovery from the accident, he couldn’t drive so he would ask his friends to drive him around. Then, when he managed to learn to use his prosthetic arm more efficiently, his son would start the car for him because Rasim couldn’t hold the keys. Eventually, ArcelorMittal covered the cost of a 10-year-old automatic car, with a button to start it.
“I think that the moment when he finally turned the car by himself and started to drive was the happiest moment in his life after the accident. I’ve never seen him that happy,” Emina recalls.
Rasim says he thought that he would never be able to drive again. So when he succeeded, the feeling was unbelievable. He adds that he loves driving because it is the only time he feels like everyone else: “Nobody knows I’m a person with disabilities when I’m in the car.”
December 2021: 230 BAM ($124)*
February 2023: 300 BAM ($162)
This month, Emina bought some clothes during the winter sale season. All were purchased at 40 percent off. For two T-shirts, a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt they paid about 110 BAM ($59). Before, she says they would buy anything they liked, even if it was not strictly necessary. Now, they only buy what they need, and shop at sales or in outlet stores.
“Before I would buy myself boots for the winter. I would give 200 BAM ($108) for high-quality shoes I could wear for many seasons. Now we buy shoes at the outlet. Recently I paid 30 BAM ($16) for boots in the outlet,” she says.
Some of Rasim’s clothes have to be adjusted by a tailor now, as he cannot button his trousers by himself. These alterations mean extra cost.
Additionally, as Hamza is a rapidly growing teenager, they need to buy him clothes more often. He also needs clothes for his athletic training – he goes running and jumping at a stadium three times a week – for which they pay 25 BAM ($13,50) a month to a local club.
“Before I loved to buy books and read them. Now I would rather give that money for my son’s training,” she says.
December 2021: 160 BAM ($86)*
February 2023: 200 BAM ($108)
Recreation and going out
Sometimes, when Emina and Hamza are not home, Rasim has to eat out because he is not able to cut up food well on his own. But since going out got so expensive, they try to reduce it to a bare minimum.
Before inflation, they would often go to the cinema to watch a movie as a family, but now that would cost around 50 BAM ($27) for tickets, drinks and popcorn, so they have had to forgo that. They also used to go to Sarajevo every weekend, to walk, eat and shop, which they no longer do.
They don’t gather for picnics with their friends any more, either. Before the cost of living crisis, 10 of them would meet together with their children, to eat, drink and go sightseeing. It would cost them all together around 80 BAM ($43). Now, just for their family of three, that would cost 50 BAM ($27).
Since he is not working, Rasim often goes out to a local cafe to drink coffee, which is a kind of cultural ritual for many Bosnians. Before, a cup of coffee was $1; now it is more than double that.
Hamza, who will soon turn 15, sometimes goes out socially with his friends and needs an allowance for those outings. Emina says that he also gets money for snacks when he goes to school.
December 2021: 300 BAM ($162)*
February 2023: 200 BAM ($108)
Five quick questions for Rasim
1. What is one thing you had to forgo this month? It was my birthday this month. Usually we would go out with our friends, but now we stayed home.
2. Which is the most worthwhile expense from this month? Everything we spend on our son is a worthwhile expense. We would rather forgo buying something for ourselves, so he could get what he needs.
3. When finances get tough – what advice do you have and what gets you through the difficult times? I just remember my worst days. We only have what we earn on our credit cards, even though the bank wanted to give us a higher limit. We don’t want to be in the negative balance. We never borrow money from others. Our motto is to spend only what we have and to try to save something, and that is rare.
4. What is your biggest money worry? The warranty for my prosthetic arm expires after three years, which will be soon. After that, the option is to buy an additional extended two-year warranty, but we don’t have the money for that. So soon, every break will be at our cost, out of pocket. And we know the costs – for example, the charger is 3,000 BAM ($1,617), and the battery is around 6,000 BAM ($3,234). The rubber on the finger is already damaged; to fix it, it costs 800 BAM ($431). Cracking in the pads of fingers are visible also, so I put duct tape around them. But, there is another issue ahead of us. Usually the amputated parts, like my hand, change after some time, so the mould of the prosthetic arm should also be adjusted to that. I was supposed to see a doctor to check that, but I didn’t. It would cost us around 15,000 BAM ($8,085) to change the mould. Also, our son will go on a holiday excursion this summer, before enrolling in high school. That trip to North Macedonia will cost us 300 BAM ($162) plus money he will need for food and other expenses. That is a huge financial worry for us. The car is also one of my main concerns. If something breaks, it is very hard to cover that with our monthly income.
5. What is the saving hack you are proudest of? Recently, a cable in my car broke, so I watched a tutorial on YouTube and with the help of a friend, fixed it. If I went to the mechanic, this would probably cost around 150 BAM ($81).
*Last year’s prices were sourced from Rasim and family.
Read more stories from the series: What’s your money worth?
— to www.aljazeera.com